Short Story: Return to Madness

The following flash fiction story is my entry into the NYC Midnight flash fiction writing contest. I was assigned a genre (horror/thriller), an action that must be included in the story (chewing gum), and a word that must appear within the story’s text (grip).

I titled the story Return to Madness, then after submission thought I should have titled it Grip on Reality. But whatever– they’re both good titles.

Here’s the story:

RETURN TO MADNESS

My fingers tap the table as I wait for Darius. Why did I ever let Jen talk me into this? Me, go out with a man? After all I’ve been through? 

It’s just a date, I tell myself. A normal date, in a normal restaurant, with a normal guy.

By the time Darius returns, I’m more collected and manage a smile. “Sorry that took forever,” he says, leaning in. “You don’t usually expect a long line in the mens’ room.” He chuckles at his little joke, but I don’t find it funny. Talk of bathrooms is one of the things that triggers the horrifying memories. 

It’s just a date.

Darius reaches into his pocket and pulls out a packet of gum. No, no, no. He unwraps a piece and pops it into his mouth. “Want one?” I grasp the edges of the table, every instinct screaming at me to flee. He chews, oblivious to my panic at first, then realization dawns. “Melissa? What’s the matter?”

His lip-smacking drowns out every other sound. My heart pounds; I loose my grip on the table, prepared to bolt. When I look up, I see someone else– someone from my haunted past, who also enjoyed chewing gum when he came to visit my bathtub prison. I yell at the top of my lungs before lunging toward my would-be assailant and pushing him into the table behind. He shouts my name, but I run. 

“Melissa!”

He’s not going to catch me this time.

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